Posts Tagged ‘Westminster’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 May to Saturday 2 June 1257

Friday, June 1st, 2012

On Sunday 28 May Henry III celebrated Pentecost at Westminster. For some time he had been making preparations. On 3 May he had ordered his huntsman to take over fifty deer of various types for the feast.  There were also to be robes for distribution to his household and  164 tunics for poor Jewish converts to Christianity, these  for the alms  of the king, the queen and their children.  In previous years the  number of tunics distributed had been 171, the missing seven  presumably being the quota of Henry’s recently deceased daughter, Katherine. She was, however, very much on Henry’s mind, for on the feast day itself, he paid the expenses of  Master Simon of Wells who was coming  to Westminster to make an image of her in gilt bronze for her tomb.  Henry must have been encouraged by the good turn for the celebrations. On 28 May a royal charter, in favour of the bishop of Bath and Wells, was witnessed by the bishops of Worcester and Salisbury, and the earls of Norfolk, Gloucester, Leicester, Hereford, and Aumale, as well as Philip Basset and Stephen Longespee, and assorted ministers. For once, Henry’s foreign relatives were absent, although William de Valence was back attesting on 1 June.  The king’s roll, recording his daily expenditure on food and drink, which survives for 1260, throws more light on the Pentecost festivities. In that year, Henry fed 464 paupers, expended 200 pounds of wax burning candles in his chapel and almonry, and spent some £145 mostly on food and drink. Translating such sums into modern money is full of pitfalls but it could be viewed as the equivalent of between half a million and a million pounds today.

The fine rolls show business as usual in this week. Indeed it continued on 28 May itself when the rolls record the appointment of a new sheriff for Gloucestershire. This was done by the ordinance of the senior judge, Henry of Bath, and the treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, which shows how Henry had devolved such appointments. A fine of particular interest shows how carefully the accumulation of gold was monitored, and also gives evidence for the exchange rate between gold and silver.  On 30 May (entry no.703),  Roger of Newcastle offered half a mark of gold   for a certain writ. However, the entry recorded that the gold offered was under weight by one gold penny, ‘that is ten pennies of silver’.  This shows that the exchange rate between gold and silver was then one to ten, so that a penny of gold should weigh ten pennies of silver. Of course, at this time there were no gold pennies (but wait till later in the year!), and the gold had to offered either in foil or in foreign gold currencies. The amounts offered would then be weighed and at the one to ten ratio, the half a mark of gold here offered, that is  80 pence in gold, should have weighed 800 silver pennies. In fact, as we have seen, it weighed ten silver pennies less. Hence the trouble.

One question about the numbers of paupers clothed on such feast days. We have said that in 1257 the numbers of converts clothed was 164. We have also suggested that the number is seven down from the year before because of Katherine’ s death. But how do the numbers work? There is other evidence that the number for the king was 100 and  the queen 50. That leaves 21 (before 1257) for the children. But as there were five children and if the portion per child was seven, that should make the number 185. Is the answer that Henry did not give alms in the same way for his married children (by 1256 Margaret and Edward), and so the twenty-one is just Edmund, Beatrice and Katherine at seven apiece?  Ideas welcome.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 13 May to Saturday 19 May 1257

Friday, May 18th, 2012

At the start of this week Henry moved from Merton to Westminster where he was to remain for well over a month. The week was a sad one, for it probably saw in Westminster abbey the funeral of Henry’s beloved daughter Katherine.  On 16 May, Henry assigned £51 to John, his almoner, for the funeral’s expenses. If this money went in giving alms to the poor for Katherine’s soul, as seems likely, it suggests that around 10,000 paupers were fed on the day of the funeral. 

The king’s presence at Westminster had a dramatic effect on business recorded in the fine rolls. In the week before at Merton, only eleven purchases were made of writs to initiate or further legal actions according to the common law. In this week at Westminster the number was twenty-seven. Clearly litigants knew the king was coming to Westminster and decided to wait for his arrival,  rather than seeking him out at Merton. This does raise the question as to why Henry’s government never devolved the power to issue the common law writs to the judges at Westminster,  rather than making everyone get them from the chancery which, of course, followed the king.  The solution adopted in the next century for the chancery itself to become fixed at Westminster was, to my mind, less satisfactory.  The twenty-seven writs were for litigation in a range of counties, which shows again the common law was genuinely common and was not just for the south-east.  Lincolnshire easily tops the list with ten writs, and one wonders whether one envoy had been sent to secure them for all the litigants, although admittedly they are not placed on the roll in a single block.  After that, there were three writs for Northamptonshire, two for Kent, Berkshire and Wiltshire,  and one for Essex, Devon, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.

The roll also has something on the aftermath of the persecution of the Jews of Lincoln for allegedly crucifying a Christian boy (‘little Saint Hugh’) in their town in 1255. On 18 May  William de Kivelingho offered the king a mark of gold (through the sheriff and the justice of the Jews, Simon Passelewe) ‘for the house which Vives of Norwich, Jew, hung for having, as was said, crucified a boy at Lincoln, held in Brancegate in the parish of St Martin in Lincoln’.  The ‘as was said’ is interesting and like other entries in the rolls in this period suggests increasing doubt as to whether the event really had taken place. This entry is  no 648 in calendar and bottom but one of this membrane.  Note also the drawing in the margin designed perhaps to mark the entry.

For Henry and the Jews of Lincoln in 1255 see the fines of the month for January and February 2010.


Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 April to Saturday 21 April 1257

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

During this week, Henry III left Westminster to spend some time at Merton priory in Surrey. From there he was to move on to Windsor, before returning to Merton,  arriving back at Westminster in the middle of May. These kind of trips out and around the capital, taking in Windsor, and either  Merton  to the south, or St Albans to the north, were characteristic of Henry’s itinerary.  Westminster, with its palace, patron saint and abbey, was his favourite residence, quite apart from being, or perhaps in spite of being, the seat of government.  But Henry also delighted in Windsor. He had made it  into a luxurious palace where his queen and children were based. A visit to Windsor fitted well with a stay at Merton or St Albans where Henry could be sustained both by the prayers of the monks and their food and drink.  How one wishes, there was a Merton chronicle to match the picture  of Henry’s visits to St Albans given by Matthew Paris.  At least the witness lists to royal charters show who was with Henry at Merton, and they included both his brother in law, Simon de Montfort, and his half brother, William de Valence.

The week has a fascinating variety of material on the fine rolls.  On 18 April at Merton, the twenty-four jurors of Romney marsh (the men elected to keep the marsh) fined in one mark of gold for having the judge, Henry of Bath, hear and determine the disputes between them and the men of the marsh about the repair of the marsh’s embankments and drains. (No. 554 in the calendar).   As Hasted puts it in his History of Kent, this led to  ‘the ordinances of Henry de Bathe, from which laws the whole realm of England take directions in relation to the sewers’:  ‘Romney Marsh’, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (1799), pp. 465-473. URL:  Date accessed: 15 April 2012.

The king’s financial needs led to further measures for the selling of his woods in order to raise 3000 to 4000 marks. The treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, was too busy to attend to this, and so Adam de Grenville was appointed in his place. (No.565).

The next entries (nos.566-7), dated to 20 April at Merton, concerned the appointment of the  Yorkshire magnate, John de Eyville, as chief justice of the royal forest north of the Trent, which meant the northern forests were under his control.  John fined in two marks of gold for the office and agreed to pay 10 marks more a year for it than his predecessor,  terms which hardly seem extortionate.  John was to be a leading rebel in the civil war, but clearly he had not been excluded from office and favour beforehand.

Finally, to return to lampreys. In entry no.557, the exchequer was ordered to allow the king’s bailiffs of Gloucester £25 10d which they had spent buying  and transporting lampreys and other things for the king and queen during Lent.  This entry was cancelled, the reason (not stated) being that it should  have been placed on the liberate rolls. There more detail was given. The writ to the exchequer was issued on 19 April from Merton. 191 lampreys and 6 shad had been sent to the king and 55 lampreys and 2 shad  to the queen. Taking no account of the shad, this suggests a lamprey cost around 2 shillings or 24 pence. Given that a penny was enough to supply a pauper with food for one day, lampreys were evidently  expensive fish.

The cancelled entry about lampreys is seventeen from the bottom on the membrane covering this week; that about Romney marsh twenty from the bottom.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 25 February to Saturday 10 March 1257

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Henry III began the week commencing Sunday 25 February at Windsor.  He had to be back at Westminster by 18 March for the opening of the great parliament which would make crucial decisions about the Sicilian affair and  say good bye to Richard of Cornwall before his departure for Germany.  To fill in the intervening period, there was just time for a short tour.  Henry left Windsor on Friday 2 March and stayed over night at  the house of Henry de Bohun at Amersham.  On the evening  of the next day,  Saturday 3 March he reached St Albans abbey where he remained until the ninth. Then Henry moved on to Hertford to be entertained by his half brother, William de Valence, to whom he had given Hertford castle. After that,  Henry progressed  to Waltham abbey where he stayed from  11 to 14 March  before returning to Westminster for the parliament.

There were several reasons for this tour. One was that there was sickness at Windsor.  Queen Eleanor was ill there, as were several young nobles, including Nicholas of Seagrave, who were being brought up at  court.  Another reason was spiritual. Henry was on a  pilgrimage. He could pray for help at the forthcoming parliament before the shrine of England’s proto-martyr Alban and before Waltham’s famous Holy Cross. And there was a financial motive.  Henry was doing all he could to save money for the Sicilian affair.   What better way to reduce the costs of his daily expenditure on food and drink than by accepting the hospitality of his nobles and even more, for they could put him up for longer, of England’s  great religious houses.  Henry’s exploitation of religious houses in this way was one of the complaints made against him by churchmen in the 1250s. He was, however, aware that not everyone had their resources, and was good enough to send Henry de Bohun a cask of wine to compensate for what had been consumed at Amersham

Matthew Paris gives a wonderful picture of Henry’s visit to St Albans.  He makes no complaint about it, although Henry stayed for a week and  brought with him two of his unpopular Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, as well as his Savoyard steward, Imbert Pugeis, and another foreign relative, William de Chabanais. But then Henry’s conduct was so completely right. He offered at the great altar a ‘most noble necklace with two clasp and a cross chain’  and at the altars of St Alban and St Amphibalis most noble rings. He also gave a silver gilt cup to hold the dust found in  the recently discovered original tomb of St Alban and as well as six silken cloths, of which one was to cover the tomb and another the tombs of the hermits Roger and Sigard. Henry also gave money for work on the St Alban’s feretory.  During this visit, Matthew Paris, so he tells us, was continually with the king  at his table and in his chamber.  Henry indeed, ‘directing amicably and diligently the pen of the writer’, named for Paris the princes who had just elected Richard as king of Germany. He also named the sainted kings of England and then ran through all the English baronies he could remember of which he found there were 250.  Paris also captures Henry dealing with business.  Certain masters of the University of Oxford came before him in the chapel of Saint Oswin and made a complaint about the jurisdictional  claims of  bishop of Lincoln. They were given a day for their case to be heard at the forthcoming ‘great parliament’.  Matthew Paris added his two penny worth. He told the king  ‘secretly’ how  ruin would threaten the whole church if the  University of Oxford should now suffer the same fate as the currently troubled University of Paris. Henry showed suitable  alarm. ‘Let this not happen, especially in my time’. One is so used to Paris’s diatribes against Henry III, that it is good to be reminded of a totally different side to the their relationship.  On a visit like this to a great monastery, Henry could display a charming  combination of respectful piety, friendly accessibility and proper concern.

The fine rolls in these two weeks reflect Henry’s efforts to raise money. At Windsor on 28 February he arranged for wood to be sold from the royal forests, hoping this would raise 3000 or 4000 marks.  The fines of gold, designed to provide the treasure for the Sicilian army, continued  to come in. There were eleven in these two weeks worth some nine marks of gold, the equivalent of 90 marks of silver. In addition the abbot of Croxton, at St Albans on 5 March, offered 60 marks silver for the purchase of gold to secure the king’s confirmation of gift of land.  Henry added a further concession ‘for the sake of the heart of King John’, which was buried at the abbey. The rolls  give a perfect example of how Magna Carta had restricted royal income. On 2 March at Windsor, Henry de Blendet did homage to the king for his father’s lands.  The relief or inheritance tax he had to pay was £5. Since he held one knight’s fee from the king this was strictly in accord with Magna Carta. It was  restrictions such as these which made the king so dependent on taxation which only parliament could grant. Hence the importance of the approaching meeting.

On the membrane covering this period, the entry for the sale of wood is 10 down, the relief of Henry de Blendet is fourteen down, and for the king at St Albans on 5 March, see sixteen down.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 February to Saturday 24 February 1257

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

At the start of this week, or possibly at the end of last, Henry moved from Westminster to Windsor, going by way of Merton priory in Surrey.  On Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, his Lenten fast began, which at the very least must have meant a fish diet.   Henry  remained pre-occupied by the Sicilian project, the project that is to place Edmund, his second son, on the throne of Sicily.  In this week he gave 100 marks for the support of  Henry, the brother of the king of Castile. Henry was in England and being canvassed  as the man who might lead the army to conquer Sicily from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler. In this week, King  Henry also appointed Simon de Montfort  as his ambassador to negotiate a peace with the king of France. This too was linked to the Sicilian project since, without such a peace, a passage of an English army through France on its way to Sicily would never be permitted.  Montfort was at court at Windsor during the week and, preparatory to his mission, gained permission both to make his will and to receive his inheritance in France if the king of France would grant it to him.

It is a curious week for the fine rolls because between 16 and 26 February only six items of business were enrolled upon them.  Since a new membrane was started in the course of the week and an old one finished, one wonders whether some business was lost in the transition. By far the most striking entry – the last in the image above – concerned Amice countess of Devon. On 19 February the king made her a life grant of the royal manor of Melksham in Wiltshire in return for the traditional annual payment or farm of  a little over £48. This was a generous concession because when Melksham had been valued  in 1250 its farm had been set at £140. (See CFR 1250-1, no.1107).  Amice  was a woman of the highest status.  She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare earl of Gloucester and his wife, Isabel,  daughter of the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke. She was the widow of Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devon, who had died in 1245. Since then she  had resisted pressure to take a second husband. Amice was protected by Magna Carta which laid down that no widow could be made re-marry.  She was also protected by her close relationship with Queen Eleanor and her party of Savoyards. In this year,  Amice’s son and heir,  Baldwin, was to marry a daughter of the queen’s uncle Thomas of Savoy.  The gift of Melksham to Amice was made at Windsor, Eleanor’s chief base. Almost certainly she had a hand in it, as perhaps did Peter of Savoy, who was also at court this week. Doubtless Amice was there too, as she had been at the start of January, when she received a new year’s gift of  six deer from the king.  Queen Eleanor continued to keep her eye on Melksham. In 1258,  the £48 annual farm was used to support her lady Willelma, ‘who from the childhood of the queen has served her and now, wearied in that service and worn out by old age and sickness, does not wish to follow the queen, but proposes for her better quiet  to dwell in the abbey of Lacock or some other religious house’. (See p.105 of Margaret Howell’s, Eleanor of Provence).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 4 February to Saturday 10 February 1257

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

This week’s blog needs to begin with a small correction. The blog for last week stated that Henry spent the whole of that week at Windsor. I was relying here on the Itinerary of Henry III, prepared by Theodore Craib of the Public Record Office,  as found in the later edition put together by English Heritage. I failed to notice  that the latter has a mistake and gives as Henry’s itinerary for February what is in fact his itinerary for March, leaving out February altogether.  As is actually clear from the fine rolls, during the week of 28 January-3 February, Henry left Windsor and returned to Westminster.

Henry spent the whole of the week  from 4 to 10 February at Westminster.  The fine rolls show his continuing efforts to build up his gold treasure to fund the campaign to place his second son on the throne of Sicily. In this week, there were thirteen  fines made in gold, of which eight  were connected with exemptions from knighthood. The most valuable fine was produced by an alliance planned between two noble houses. On Friday 9 February, Edmund de Lacy, heir to the earldom of Lincoln,  fined in ten marks of gold (the equivalent of 100 marks of silver) for permission to marry  Henry, his son and heir,  to the eldest daughter and heir of William Longespee.  As a  result of this marriage, Henry, who was to be a leading counsellor  of King Edward I,  ultimately  became  earl of Salisbury as well as earl of Lincoln.  It might be wondered why this marriage was not snapped up by one of Henry III’s foreign relations, who dominated the court in this week. On 4 February a royal charter was witnessed by three of the king’s Poitevin half brothers (Guy and Geoffrey de Lusignan and William de Valence), by the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, by two other Savoyard ministers, and not a single English magnate. The answer was that Edmund de Lacy was already part of the Savoyard circle because his wife, through the brokerage of Peter of Savoy, was Alice, daughter of the marquis of Saluzzo in North Italy and his Savoyard bride. Edmund’s mother, moreover, Margaret de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, who had played a key part in negotiating Henry’s marriage to the Longespee heiress, was  close to Queen Eleanor, as Louise Wilkinson has shown in an article about her in Historical Research.

For the image of Edmund de Lacy’s fine, count up twenty-nine entries from the bottom of the membrane on the fine roll, and see no.416 in the calendar.

Saving hard for Sicily, and hoping to accompany his brother Richard to Germany for his coronation as king of the Romans, the last thing Henry  wanted was trouble in Wales.  Yet he could no longer ignore the insurgency of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. On 10 February he issued letters of safe conduct to Llywelyn’s envoys to come and see Richard, who hoped (as Matthew Paris noted) to persuade the Welsh prince to keep quiet so as not to interfere with his departure from the kingdom. Some hope! Henry himself had done little since the start of the year to meet his growing problems. Next week’s blog will at last show him taking action.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January 1257

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We saw in the last blog the major items on Henry III’s political agenda in 1257: the Sicilian affair, the peace with France, and the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffud in Wales.  All of these posed problems, but  Henry had  one reason to look forward with confidence. The balance of power in Europe was about to be transformed in his favour, or so he might hope. Just after a Christmas 1256, in ceremony before Henry and his council in St Stephen’s chapel in Westminster palace, during a great storm of thunder and lightening,  his brother, Richard of Cornwall, had accepted  election  as king of the Romans. He was now busy preparing his departure for Germany where he would be crowned.

During this week, which Henry spent at Westminster,  there was more good news.  On 18 January the abbot of Westminster and the bishop elect of Salisbury got back to England with news that the pope was prepared to extend the deadline of the Sicilian enterprise.  Under the original agreement  in which the kingdom was conferred on Edmund, his second son, Henry had been obliged to pay the pope £90,000 and send an army to Sicily to conquer the kingdom by Michaelmas 1256, which, of course, was  long gone.  Henry now learnt that the pope had graciously extended the deadline down to the start of June 1257.  There was no chance of Henry actually paying the money and sending an army within that term either, but at least he might be able to show he meant business. That above all meant getting a tax to support the enterprise from parliament.  The planning of a parliament must have now become a subject of earnest discussion between Henry and his advisers.

Meanwhile the fine rolls show that the attempt to build up a gold treasure to pay a Sicilian army was continuing. There were twelve fines of gold in this week, of which eight were for respite of knighthood.  Following on from last week’s discussion of the gold treasure, it might be worth explaining the form of these fines. Let us take as an example that translated as no 358 in the Calendar of Fine Rolls 1257  Its image is six items from the bottom in, with the marginal annotation ‘De fine auri pro respect milicie’. Here the Yorkshire knight, Robert de Etton’ (probably of Etton in the East Riding) is said to give the king half a mark of gold for respite from his  knighthood, which means that he has an exemption  from having to take up the honour.  Although the fine says he ‘gives’ the gold, in fact he  is not paying cash down. Instead as the fine goes on to indicate, he is to pay the gold into the wardrobe at the coming Michaelmas.  The ‘order to the sheriff of Yorkshire’ referred to is an order to the sheriff  to take security for this payment. In fact, as the entry goes on to indicate in a later addition (note the change of ink), Robert  paid the gold to the then keeper of the wardrobe, Peter des Rivaux, on Friday after Ash Wednesday in the regnal year 42, that is on 8 February 1258, so he missed his stipulated term.  Note ‘a’ to the translation adds that ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. The originalia roll was the copy of the fine roll sent the exchequer so it knew what monies to collect. The absence of the fine, like all fines of gold,  from the originalia roll thus meant that the exchequer had nothing to do with the collection and audit of the gold treasure, which was entirely a wardrobe affair.  Hence the record that the fine has been paid and that Robert is ‘quit’  is made here on the fine roll not on the exchequer’s pipe roll.  Unfortunately, like most of its kind, the fine does not indicate in what form the gold came.

The fine rolls for this week also reveal another way in which the king was accumulating his gold treasure.  This was from the towns who were offering  gold, or silver to buy gold, in return for charters giving them various privileges. Thus on  21 January the citizens of Northampton offered 100 marks of silver to buy gold for a charter of liberties, while in an undated entry, the men of Guildford offered one and a half marks of gold for a charter which established moved the county court of Surrey  to Guildford. This caused great anger locally since it meant moving the county court from the much more central Leatherhead.

Does anyway know whether these charters survive?  If the Guildford one does, it will clear up a mystery over its date. Although the fine for it appears in this week, and the actual charter is enrolled with others for January and has much the same witnesses, the charter roll calendar says it bears the date 7 September. An image of Guildford castle, much visited by Henry III, appears on the Guildford Borough website.

The witnesses to the Northampton charter, which is dated 18 January although the fine is three days later, show who was at court in this week. The list is  headed by the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence. Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle, does not feature, although he was at court around this time.  Henry’s generosity  to his foreign relatives is very clear.  On Friday, 20 January,  he confirmed an earlier gift  to Peter of Savoy  which meant  he was pardoned  the £625 he owed  each year for custody of the Vescy lands during the minority of the heir, a very major concession.   On the same day Henry took steps to give Guy de Lusignan 200 marks, and also compensated one of his clerks for giving way to the queen’s request to surrender a wardship. This was  so that it could be given to her daughter the queen of Scotland. The tensions between the Savoyards and the Lusignans in this scramble for patronage were to explode in 1258.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog for 1257

Friday, January 13th, 2012

King Henry’s situation in 1257 was very different from that in 1261. In 1261 he was struggling to overthrow the restrictions imposed on him in 1258. The kingdom was on the brink of civil war. In 1257 Henry was in full control of government. England was at peace. Henry had one major pre-occupation. This was the Sicilian enterprise. Henry  had accepted a papal offer of the throne of Sicily for his second son Edmund. The only problem was that he had to pay the pope £90,000 AND send an army out to Sicily to conquer it from Manfred, its Hohenstaufen ruler.  Part of the money was coming from taxation levied on the church much to its fury. This was because  the pope had diverted the tax originally intended for Henry’s crusade to support the Sicilian business.  But this would raise at most half the money owed the pope, let alone finance a military campaign.  Henry desperately needed additional sums which meant trying to secure a general tax from parliament. What happened at the parliaments held in 1257, we shall see in due course. 

 The Sicilian business also impacted on relations with France. In order to concentrate upon it, Henry decided to  make peace with King Louis IX. In other words, he was prepared at last to resign his claims to his lost continental empire, which essentially meant resigning his claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou. Negotiations for such a settlement were to be a major theme in 1257.

With Sicily central to his thoughts,  the last thing Henry wanted  was to be distracted by events in Wales. Distracted he was, however. The rising power of the ruler of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, became, in 1257, a major preoccupation.

The fine rolls in 1257 provide graphic testimony to the impact of the Sicilian business on local society. While Henry knew that only a general tax from parliament could really give the enterprise lift off, he was also trying to raise money in other ways. In particular he was assembling a treasure in gold to pay his Sicilian army, this because gold was the metal of the Sicilian currency. (For the ‘augustales’ minted by Frederick II in Sicily, see  Central to Henry’s scheme was insisting that people who wished for concessions and favours should pay for them in gold.  These ‘fines of gold’ are recorded on the fine rolls, making the latter a key source for the accumulation of the gold treasure.  One favour in particular was being purchased in 1257. This was exemption from knighthood.  In 1256, the king had proclaimed that everyone with an income of £15 a year upwards should take up knighthood.  His aim was very largely to make money from the men prepared to fine with the king for exemption from the obligation. Alternatively they could fine for an inquiry into the value of their lands to see if they really did have the required income.   No one questioned the king’s right to impose knighthood, but his move still created resentment. There were some lords, certainly, who were attracted by the status of  knighthood, and its promise of  military activity.  But many others were put off both by the costs and the likely administrative as well as military burdens.  To have to pay to avoid them  was infuriating, the more especially as the £15 a year threshold was a low one.

The cost Henry charged for exemption or an inquiry was usually half a mark of gold. Since gold was worth ten times silver, this meant the fine was the equivalent of five marks of silver, or £3 6s 8d. It thus represented a sizable proportion of a £15 annual income.  During the course of 1257, as we will see, large numbers of potential knights came to court and made their fine. They must have asked why they had to do so in gold, thus discovering Henry’s Sicilian plans and how they were suffering from them. Most of those fining were lords of manors and members of the  gentry. They were influential locally, however much they wished to escape the burdens of knighthood. In this way the full horror of the Sicilian venture was spread through the counties of England.  What made matters worse was the saving of the gold was very personal to the king. The potential knights had to come to court to make their fine. They then had to pay the gold  in to the king’s wardrobe either at once or at stipulated terms in the future. Usually the terms were written down on the fine rolls, as was the record of the eventual payments to the wardrobe’s keeper, either Artald de St Romain or later, Peter des Rivaux. Both these men were foreigners, the latter notoriously so.  These gentry lords thus also saw how ‘alien’ was Henry’s court.  The  whole process of the making and collection of these fines  can be seen in the payments made in January 1257, with the marginal annotations ‘De finibus auri’, ‘Concerning fines of gold’.

The exchequer was not informed at all about the process, something it was left to the reformers of 1258 to put right. (See the fine of the month by Richard Cassidy)

One other aggravation was the bother of acquiring gold to make the fines. Unfortunately the fine rolls do not say in what form the gold came. Perhaps the most likely source was the goldsmiths who sold gold in foil and other forms, The cost of such purchases placed a further burden on the potential knights.

Henry III began the year 1257 at the priory of Merton in Surrey. He then moved to Westminster for the anniversary of Edward the Confessor’s death on 5 January. This feast of his patron was one of the greatest in Henry’s liturgical year and he always celebrated it at Westminster, unless abroad.  Henry was to remain at Westminster till near the end of the month.  In the first two weeks of January, the fine rolls show that there were no less than thirty-one fines of gold. Of these sixteen were for exemption from knighthood, and another six for inquiries into income.  Four fines were made for exemption from jury service.

The fine  rolls also show the way the king was entrusting major royal castles to his foreign servants. In this period Imbert Pugeis became keeper of The Tower of London and Aymon Tumbert keeper of Windsor. Both were Savoyards. Henry also increased the jurisdiction of his Poitevin castellan of Corfe, Elyas de Rabayne, by giving him control of the surrounding warren or park.  The way foreigners were in charge of the chief castles of the kingdom was one of the main complaints made against Henry’s rule in 1258.

See next week’s blog for more about fines of gold and Henry’s attempts to raise money.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 December to Saturday 24 December 1261

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Henry began this week at Merton priory where he was doubtless sustained by both the alimentary and spiritual ministrations of the monks. On Friday 23 December he returned to Westminster to celebrate Christmas. The move is perfectly illustrated on the fine rolls where the last entry on membrane 18 ends ‘witnessed by the king at Merton on 23 December’  and the first on membrane 17 ‘witnessed by the king at Westminster on 23 December’. The Latin, with the abbreviations expanded and placed in square brackets,  is respectively T[este] R[ege] ap[ud] M[er]ton’ xxiii  die Dec[embris] and T[este R[ege] apud Westm[onasterium] xxiii die Dec[embris].

The chronological confusion which had overtaken the fine rolls during the political crisis is illustrated by the third entry on membrane 17 which concludes  ‘witnessed by the king at the Tower of London on 9 December’.  This confusion makes it hard to know how many writs associated with the common law legal actions were purchased between 18 and 24

December.  During the week Henry was busily preparing his Christmas festivities for which see next week’s blog.